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Religious discrimination bill delayed in Australia, with faith groups pleased

by Cara Bentley

Many church leaders opposed the legislation as they felt it did not protect religious people enough - with Catholics, Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia writing to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to say: "We take the view that it would be better to have no Religious Discrimination Act rather than a flawed one."

Australian Christian Lobby and Christian Schools Australia also agreed that it would be better to hold off.

One of the criticisms is that the term 'religious body' is too narrow, excluding groups that primarily engage in commercial activities. 

The importance of being defined as a 'religious body', as a church or Christian school would be, is that it is then given special protection over the ability to hire and fire on the basis of religious belief.

For example, therefore a Christian campsite, shop or business would not have the same rights as a church over the character of people they employ in their Christian organisation.

Equality Australia says the new law will open the doors to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

PM Scott Morrison announced the delay on Saturday, saying: "We made a commitment to Australians to address this issue at the last election and we are keeping faith with that commitment in a calm and considered process. We're about listening and getting this right."

"I have yet to see any wholehearted or enthusiastic support coming from either religious organisations, equality groups or the business community," Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said shortly before Mr Morrison's announcement."

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